October 25, 2011

Charlotte's Other Side

White Chocolate Spider Web

I still feel bad about jumping the gun and bypassing Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and anything else that is celebrated before New Year's Eve. Well, I did start early with some pumpkin pie, so that should count I guess.

Actually, I am a bit under the weather right now (allergies or something more) and although the soup I threw together in a stuffed up, fog tonight was delicious and hit the spot, I didn't have it in me to photograph or write about. I am deciding, instead, to post a "recipe" from my Tuesday afternoon "cooking" group.

October 21, 2011

Jam Session

Toasts with Chicken-Liver Mousse and Shallot Jam 

"Mommy, that lady just bought liver…chicken liver!"

Indeed I did, kiddo.

This recipe comes from one very folded, dog-eared page in an old Food & Wine magazine. I come across it now and then, usually on sleepless nights, when I am unable to find any of Curtis Stone's Take Home Chef reruns to numb my exhausted, yet restless mind. This recipe is one that intrigued me more for the shallot jam than the liver mousse, but figured I wanted the entire experience.

October 18, 2011

Bake My Day

Chocolate Layer Brownies

When I first became aware of her rags-to-riches story, her drive and ambition to feed her family and turn a love for baking and cooking into a career, I bought Paula Deen's The Lady & Son's Savannah Country Cookbook. The small, spiral-bound book is a collection of family recipes, as well as those also served in her Savannah restaurant of the same name, The Lady & Sons. I used it for a few recipes (I do love pictures though and there are none, so truthfully, I really did not flip through it that often), but it wasn't until my friend Tracy was looking over my cookbook collection one day and exclaimed that her favorite brownie recipe was by Paula Deen, I think from her Southern Cooking Bible. Not only her favorite recipe, she continued, but the easiest. I would now have to add the tastiest and most asked for, after making these brownies for more celebrations, potlucks, birthday parties and holidays than I could ever recall.

The recipe uses three large Symphony candy bars to create the milk chocolate layer in the middle. I still get a kick out of watching other grocery store customers looking over my healthy, pretty clean round-up of food items at the register... until they spy the brilliant, silver foil of these huge, king-size candy bars perched on top of, say, the quinoa or maybe a bag of lentils. Such big, questioning eyes, oh my. You know though, if this was my thing, my vice of sorts, I think it would be far better than a six-pack of Bud or a carton of cigarettes, no?

October 14, 2011

Pig Out

Cote de Porc à la Charcutière
(Pork Chops in a White Wine, Cornichon and Mustard Sauce)

I cannot believe I haven't posted anything on pork chops. I absolutely love them. When I do eat meat, which is probably twice a week, a chop is usually what I choose (unless what I need for this is on sale, or a little bit for that), so I have no idea what I was thinking. Maybe it's because I usually just throw a chop, with a bit pepper and paprika, into some onions on the stove, or cook one up and then reduce down some cream-based sauce with a little dijon mustard. Quick and dirty, really... although quite elegant despite how simple and fast these dishes are to come together.

This dish is a favorite as well. It's from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, a well-loved and often used reference of mine. This book is filled with amazing recipes and delicious photographs, but what makes it so much fun is that it genuinely convey's the vulgar, bawdy Tony we all know, and his dirty, foul-mouthed ways. It's so down to earth. I mean, I'm pretty sure you can call Tony down to earth. Who else (besides maybe Gordon Ramsay) is going to yell at you through the pages of a cookbook, screaming "Now pick up your spoon and scrape, you magnificent bastard!" or, ever so sweetly, "If you haven't made béarnaise from scratch before, you will surely @#*$ this sauce up. Don't worry. Just do it again". He definitely keeps it real.

October 12, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

Crispy Kale Chips

I'm really enjoying the omelette I made just now. Just a nice, relaxed breakfast for dinner I guess, but what I am most excited about and completely savoring are the crispy, crunchy kale pieces I topped it with. I may even go as far as to say they are slightly addictive.

I made a batch of crispy kale a few days ago to bring on a weekend road trip, but kept a little at home for myself too. I've been adding a few large or small pieces to my lunches and dinners, like on top of the simple cannellini bean dish I had last night, but I really like what I am tasting now. The crackly kale mixed with some of the creamy yolk that's escaped its floppy, folded home is such an interesting flavor and texture combination. The ruffled, crumbly leaves really seem to rough up (enhance?) a generally flat (refined?) omelette, in both structure and form, but also in taste.

October 10, 2011

In a Nutshell

Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnuts

The first time I made and tested this pie recipe was after Thanksgiving day a few years ago, when the pie I originally made just didn't have the spunk (or, let's be honest, taste) my family or I was looking for. I kept going between a few recipes, finally ended up using the best of two, along with reviews and comments, and it was just OK. Really, it was nothing special.

This version though, the one I made a few days later when everyone could tolerate food and pie again, got the "oohs" and "ahhs" that I had originally hoped for. My parents were willing taste-testers, but were also probably set on having only a few bites. Instead, it was forkfulls of smooth, airy pumpkin filling, spread on top of a suprising layer of creamy ground hazelnuts, housed in a crispy, pastry crust, one after another. According to both, it was, "So light! So smooth!" and "This would have been perfect on Thanksgiving!"  Yea. Thanks guys.

October 4, 2011

"T" is for Tubers...and Technical Difficulties

Turnip and Celeriac Puree with Seared Scallops

I am beginning to feel a little like Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City (minus the cigarette or popsicle, the gold name plate necklace, or the silk camisole, sorry). I am sitting at my new, snazzy computer, at a desk I finally bought, looking out my bedroom window, just staring and dreaming and thinking and typing. About food no less... but still.

Well, as I said, a new computer has found its way into my life. This due to last week's crashing of my old, itty-bitty Dell Inspiron that got me through graduate school and the past eight years. It had negative memory space left, took me hours to load anything, had crumbs in between the keys and the enter and space bar were almost worn thin, but it was my little buddy. It took me a few days to come to terms with what needed to be done, but here I am, with a sleek new machine (a desktop!) that just makes me want to email, blog, stay connected and on top of things all day long (well, I mean, to a point).

I did have a lot of free time when I was computerless though, and was in the kitchen most nights. I really got into all of the crisp, fresh fall vegetables that are out now, completely seduced by colors and textures and thoughts of big pots stewing away in a warm, spicy smelling apartment. So far, its been the freshly plucked roots and chubby, bulbous tubers that have inspired my dishes and dinners this season. From countless varieties of potatoes to beautiful rutabagas and parsnips, even burdock and taro roots; nothing has disappointed. A single pot of sauteed and simmered vegetables has easily become a bowl of soup one night, a mashed side on the second and ultimately a silky puree with a dribble of cream later in the week. Hearty and warming, nutrient-dense and satisfying, it really hasn't been that difficult saying farewell to summer.